Classics Solon
Charlotte Schubert
  • LAST REVIEWED: 30 June 2014
  • LAST MODIFIED: 30 June 2014
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780195389661-0162


Solon’s reforms, laws, and poems were famous in democratic Athens. For a long time, he was considered the founder of democracy: it was believed that he had established the property classes; set up the Areopagus, a People’s Court, and a Council of 400; abolished debt bondage; and published a law code. According to some sources, he participated in conquering the island of Salamis for Athens, and he was a poet whose poems were part of the Athenian cultural tradition for centuries to come. He was one of the Seven Sages, and as a wise man he was also part of a literary tradition that stretched from antiquity through the Middle Ages to modern times. The fundamental question running through the whole modern debate is if the figure of Solon in the literary tradition reflects his historical role in Athens in the 6th century BCE or rather a paradigmatic persona in the discourse of the 5th and 4th centuries BCE.

General Overviews

Some volumes with a biographical focus on Solon have been published since Linforth 1971 (cited under Historical Context): Freeman 1926, Oliva 1988, Lewis 2006 (cited under Historical Context), Owens 2010, Schubert 2012. Not much newer work on Solon has appeared in collections of papers, but Blok, et al. 2006 is an excellent and comprehensive set and outlines the major discussions.

  • Blok, Josine H., André Pierre, and M. H. Lardinois, eds. 2006. Solon of Athens: New historical and philological approaches. Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill.

    A most useful collection of eighteen articles on Solon, which covers the core topics of the recent discussion in three parts (Solon the poet, Solon the lawgiver, Solon the Athenian) and reflects the activities of the historical Solon in 6th-century Athens. The special contributions are noted in the relevant sections.

  • Freeman, Kathleen. 1926. The work and life of Solon. London: Milford.

    An older biographical work on Solon with a complete list of ancient references to Solon (pp. 219–226).

  • Oliva, Pavel. 1988. Solon: Legende und Wirklichkeit. Constance, Germany: Universitätsverlag.

    Illustrates the way in which Solon became a legend; outlines Solon’s career and policy, with the focus on the fragments of the poems as the main evidence.

  • Owens, Ron. 2010. Solon of Athens: Poet, philosopher, soldier, statesman. Brighton, UK: Sussex Academic.

    Describes Solon’s reforms within their historical, social, and political context; comprises a detailed commentary on the extant fragments.

  • Schubert, Charlotte. 2012. Solon. UTB Profile 3725. Tübingen, Germany: Francke.

    A brief introduction in German, with excerpts from the most important sources, recommendable as first entry for undergraduates.

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